It is said that the fastest way to understand a culture is to eat its food, and Tanzania is no different. Featuring a blend of European, Indian, and African flavors, Tanzanian cuisine is a fascinating cultural blend.
For those wanting a taste of home, Arusha has an ever-growing variety of restaurants serving international cuisine. While your hotel is likely to have an in-house restaurant, we can recommend a few good options if you’re feeling adventurous.
- George’s Tavern: A personal favorite of the Shadows of Africa team, George’s Tavern is run by a locally based Greek family and offers great European food with terrific service. Dinners and lunches at George’s can feel like you’re at one big family meal, and the cocktails aren’t half bad either!Many Shadows of Africa clients visit George’s Tavern on their way to a late flight out of Kilimanjaro.
- Le Patio: With fairy lights draped over the trees and a bonfire roaring, Le Patio is not only one of Arusha’s favorite places to dance, but also serves up a good variety of international cuisine including burgers, fish & chips, pasta, and pizzas.If you’re feeling like a night out on the town, Le Patio is one of the city’s most happening night spots.
- Picasso Cafe: It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Picasso is a fast-rising player on the local dining scene with everything from sushi to amazing burgers to decadent salads. A great place for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
- Fig and Olive: Whether you’re there for Thursday’s cocktail night or you’re in the mood for some delicious Mediterranean cuisine, you’re going to love this place. In addition to kebabs and other Middle Eastern & Mediterranean cuisine, they also do wood-fired pizzas.Located at the popular TGT complex, where local expats go to work out, play rugby, or swim laps, Fig & Olive is another popular local nightspot.
- Chinese Whispers: The #1 rated restaurant in Arusha on TripAdvisor, Chinese Whispers is a European take on traditional Chinese cuisine. If you fancy a beef and black bean or a Mongolian lamb, this is the place to go. If you’re looking for more authentic Chinese cuisine, the much more unassuming try: Chinese Dragonis a Chinese owned and operated business.
Khans Barbecue: This Arusha institution is an auto-spares shop by day (look for the Zubeda Auto Spares sign) and the best known of many earthy roadside barbecues around the market area by night. It lays out a heaped spread of grilled, skewered meat and salad. If you want to experience Arusha like a local, this is a fine place to begin.
Maps of Restaurants in Arusha
What to Expect in Arusha
Arusha is not a place most people know and, if we’re being honest, most people will never go there. But they should. Arusha is a frontier city, it’s a place of excitement, it’s a place of opportunity. It’s from this unlikely place that people from every corner of the planet converge, all there to partake in travel experiences so amazing and so unique that they truly live up to the moniker of once-in-a-lifetime.
What to Expect when Visiting
Overall though, Arusha is a great place to do very little. Whether you’re fresh off a flight, at the end of your safari or dirty and exhausted from Mt. Kilimanjaro, you will undoubtedly be in need of some down time. Both before and after our safari Arusha was our home base and I personally came to regard it affectionately.
I got to know the hotel, the staff and where to find a quiet corner to read a book and decompress. There’s plenty of nightlife all around town if that’s your thing and if you find yourself staying for a few days in Arusha, there are some amazing national parks nearby. If you’re willing to sacrifice a full day to the experience, there’s nothing better than trekking out to Tarangire National Park, famous for its elephants.
If you don’t have that much time there is also Arusha National Park, although I’m told that the wildlife experiences there pale in comparison to not only Tarangire, but all of the other amazing national parks throughout Tanzania.
One popular must-visit in Arusha is the 137km² Arusha National Park just north of town. The park offers great safari experiences and features habitats ranging from open savannah to acacia scrublands, rainforest to alpine vegetation and also the golden Mount Meru. The wildlife in Arusha National Park is also incredibly diverse, with leopards and hyenas being the major predators in the area. Bird twitchers will also not get disappointed as the park is home to a world-class avifauna of 400 bird species.
Aside from the taste of authentic safari within the outskirts of town, Arusha also provides ample opportunities for cultural immersion, local villages tour, farms, markets and so much more!
When it comes to receiving an influx of tourists, Arusha holds a large influx every year. It has a domestic airport which provides direct flight link to Dar es Salaam and it is also very near Kilimanjaro International Airport, where most safari-bound travelers arrive.
But, even though a lot of tourists often find themselves with a day or two to spare, Arusha always have something in store for them.
The Cultural Heritage Centre is the perfect place to begin your history expedition in Arusha. The building itself is a spectacle of beauty that beckons to be photographed. It is structured as a sword and shield. It serves as a symbol of the Masai people’s heritage.
Inside the centre, you will find artwork, statutes, and artifacts representing the past and present of over 120 tribes in Tanzania. You can explore gemstones, traditional dresses, carvings, masks, sculptures, and much more to learn about the way of the tribes.
The Arusha Declaration Monument is a landmark that represents the Arusha Declaration. The monument was constructed in 1977 (ten years after the declaration) when Chama Cha Mapinduzi was the ruler. The declaration represents African Socialism, known as Ujamaa. The towering structure is beautiful to capture, especially when the lighting and timing are proper.
Arusha is a captivating place for its location and historical significance in Tanzania. It represents the Tanzanian culture and the values of the 120+ Tanzanian tribes. Keep your camera gear ready to capture memorable shots.
Mount Meru (4,566 m) is an active stratovolcano and forms the centrepiece of Arusha National Park in Tanzania. The mountain is often referred to as Mt Kilimanjaro’s ‘little brother’. Although the mountain is not as high as Kilimanjaro, it is just as challenging. Known for its huge cliffs, beautiful green surroundings and abundant wildlife, Mount Meru is the sixth highest mountain in Africa and the second highest in Tanzania!
Climbing Mount Meru requires more technical climbing skills than the routes on Kilimanjaro. What Mount Meru ‘lacks’ in height, it makes up for in difficulty. Therefore, it is important to have some climbing experience.
Still, Mount Meru is sometimes used as warm-up for climbing Kilimanjaro, especially to acclimate the body to greater heights. If you have the time and budget to climb Meru, it is definitely worth it. The mountain isn’t climbed as often and it provides a truly unique experience.
Since Meru lies in Arusha National Park, there’s a great chance of seeing various animals while trekking. You’re likely to encounter giraffes, buffalos, antelopes and baboons.
The 5 Arusha must do’s
Looking for gifts or fabrics for family and friends? Arusha is a great place to start. Spend a morning at either the Central Market or the Maasai Market for some world-class bargaining. The farmer’s markets are amazing, too.
This is by far the best museum in the city. If no travel is complete without a museum visit, look no further. The Natural History Center boasts an excellent exhibit on human evolution, among other things. Tanzania is the geographic center of the human story, so this is pretty powerful!
No place in Arusha warms your heart like Shanga, a nonprofit employing over 70 Tanzanians with disabilities. Each worker performs tasks such as glassblowing, weaving, and textiles. Come meet the talented folks who work here and leave with some memories.
Legend has it, one day a local Masaai saw a bolt lightning strike and turn some nearby stones a magnificent blue, and now we have this: Tanzanite, a blue gemstone “a thousand times rarer than diamonds. Though the more scientific reason has to do more with tectonics and continental uplift than lightning, this much is true: you won’t find Tanzanite native to anywhere else on the planet so you better seek it out while in Tanzania. This ultra-rare (ultra-expensive) gemstone can be found at jewelers and stores in Arusha. The Tanzanite Experience offers the best tour in town.
Bird and boat lovers take note! Located only 10 miles from Arusha, this lake is set to a gorgeous backdrop of forest and volcanoes. Witness dozens of bird and reptile species, from lounging monitor lizards to nose-diving kingfishers. Renting a canoe is highly recommended.